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Tagata Pasifika

The Pacific voice on
New Zealand television
since 1987

Diabetics won’t be made to pay for alternative medicines, Pharmac says

Counties Manukau resident Graham King says dulaglutide has been life changing for him. He is concerned about any threat to the supply of the drug. Photo: Stephen Forbes / Stuff
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Local Democracy Reporting | Free Public Interest News Service

Pharmac says people with type 2 diabetes won’t be made to pay for alternative medicines.

This follows news there is a global shortage of dulaglutide, a diabetes drug that could affect hundreds of thousands in Aotearoa alone.

Manufacturer Lilly has instructed New Zealand health care providers to consider not prescribing Trulicity (dulaglutide) to new patients due to a global supply problem, which is expected to last until next year.

Ministry of Health figures show in 2020 there were 277,803 people with diabetes in New Zealand – 47,988 in south Auckland alone.

According to Pharmac, the drug is currently prescribed to 14,000 Kiwis and chief executive Sarah Fitt said it is working with Eli Lilly to explore all possible alternatives.

But Fitt was keen to assure those affected that they won’t be expected to pay for new medicines.

“If we are able to secure an alternative product it would be fully funded, and no additional Government funding would be required,” she said.

Fitt said under Pharmac’s single-supplier contract system pharmaceutical companies must maintain supply of the medicine they are contracted to provide, or support alternative options.

And according to the agency, it expects Eli Lilly to pay for any additional costs associated with sourcing new drugs.

But she was unable to provide a timeframe on when it would make a decision on substitute medicines.

Diabetes is the country’s biggest and fastest-growing health condition and south Auckland is the region most affected. Ministry of Health figures show in 2020 there were 47,988 diabetics in Counties Manukau alone. Photo: Supplied

Counties Manukau resident Graham King (Ngāti Tai) started taking dulaglutide this year and said the medication has been life changing for him. He is concerned about any threat to the supply of the drug.

King has managed to lose 15kgs in eight months and halve his use of insulin.

He said it was good to hear Pharmac has said any alternative treatments won’t cost diabetics, but there remain unanswered questions about the shortage of dulaglutide.

“What are the alternatives? For someone like me, if I had to look at an alternative drug, I would want to know what the side-effects are.”

Diabetes Foundation Aotearoa chairman John Baker said while there are already 14,000 people prescribed dulaglutide, the number of people who could use it to help manage their diabetes is much higher.

“It’s an extremely effective medicine, whereas previous drugs didn’t work, or had unacceptable side-effects,” Baker said.

The south Auckland-based specialist said despite Eli Lilly’s claim that it will try to guarantee supply for those already receiving Trulicity (dulaglutide), they could still be affected by the global shortages.

“All of a sudden these people are faced with the very real possibility that they won’t be able to source these medications for months.”

He said any substitute medicines would still require MedSafe’s sign-off before they could be prescribed.

“I think we have an obligation to the entire diabetic community and if people meet the criteria for dulaglutide they should receive it,” Baker said.

“We can’t say because you are on dulaglutide already, you’ve got more of a right to receive it over someone who hasn’t. I don’t accept that.”

Eli Lilly was approached for comment.



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